The Gophers went to halftime trailing Wisconsin 28-14 on Saturday.
The story has been Minnesota’s inability to stop Wisconsin’s running game, which wasn’t what it used to be – until today. In Big Ten play, the Badgers were last in the conference coming into the game in rushing (109.6 yards per game), but they rolled up 199 in the first half.
The Gophers compounded their problems with two fumbles that Wisconsin turned into two touchdowns.
After going three-and-out on their opening drive, the Gophers got a big play from their defense.
On Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage, Joel Stave tried throwing a bubble screen to Alex Erickson. Senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun read it like he knew exactly what was coming. He stepped in front of Erickson, intercepted the ball and waltzed 16 yards to the end zone.
Wisconsin shook it off and quickly went to work against the middle of the Gophers defensive line. That’s where Minnesota was thinnest with both starting defensive tackles (Steven Richardson and Scott Ekpe) and a key reserve (Robert Ndondo-Lay) all out with injuries.
Wisconsin has its own issues and had four redshirt freshmen on the offensive line. Running back Corey Clement didn’t make the trip for discipline reasons. But the Badgers still rolled down the field, in their familiar style, with run after run.
The Badgers reeled off touchdown drives of 67 and 73 yards, keeping the ball on the ground most of the way.
The Gophers came back to tie it early in the second quarter with a 71-yard drive, capped by Rodney Smith’s 6-yard run.
But after the Gophers finally forced Wisconsin to punt, Badgers linebacker Joe Schobert forced a Mitch Leidner fumble, and Darius Hillary recovered at Minnesota’s 34-yard line.
It was Schobert’s fifth forced fumble of the season.
The Badgers turned that into a touchdown, as Taiwan Deal ran through another gaping hole for a 13-yard score.
KJ Maye fumbled on Minnesota’s next possession, with Hillary recovering at the Gophers’ 48-yard line. Once again, the Badgers rolled toward the end zone, with Dare Ogunbowale scoring on an 18-yard run.